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How to Clean Your Makeup Brushes Like a Pro

BY: FAVIN THE MAVEN | 10.6.2014 |


As someone with sensitive skin, I know that I should clean my makeup brushes often. But it wasn’t until I spoke with makeup artist Kate Johnson that I realized there were a few ways to do it.

Kate is constantly seeing clients for lessons and photo shoots—one time, she did Jeremy Irons’s makeup!—so keeping her brushes sanitary between jobs is a top priority. Casual makeup-wearers should be staying on top of this chore too, though: Kate said that dirty makeup brushes are a one-way ticket to acne.


Here are the three ways she gets her brushes squeaky-clean.



Okay, maybe this one is obvious, but bear with me. According to Kate, the type of soap you should use depends on what brush you’re washing. If it’s a synthetic brush, it can withstand Dawn or a detergent. (Keep in mind, synthetic brushes won’t last for more than six months or so!) For real-hair brushes, Kate recommends shampoo.

The cleaning process

  1. Put a bit of soap or shampoo in your hand (or in a cup), and move the brush around in it. “You need to be gentle with it. Think of it as your hair,” Kate said.
  2. Rinse the brush. You’ll notice your makeup running out of it. (Gross!) Repeat steps 1 and 2 until you can rinse the brush and the water comes away clear.
  3. To dry the brush, lay it on a counter so that its head hangs over the edge, or get a handy drying stand like Kate’s (shown above). You don’t want to dry them with the bristles up, because water will run down the brush and weaken the glue that holds the head to the handle.



If you don’t want to wait a while for your brushes to dry, this method is magic—and it smells like vanilla! Kate said that using a cleaner like Cinema Secrets is so easy, she always has a tiny bottle with her to use between jobs. I asked her if it cleans as well as shampoo. “It depends on who you talk to,” she said. “[But] I wouldn’t do this for months and months, and never shampoo them.” For a truly deep clean, you can start with Cinema Secrets and then shampoo your brushes.

The cleaning process

  1. Pour a small amount of Cinema Secrets makeup cleaner into a cup. Then, dip in the tip of your brush so that it soaks up a bit of the cleaner.
  2. Wipe the brush back and forth or in a circle on a paper towel, and you’ll see the makeup come out.
  3. There is no step three! When you’re done, the brush is still dry!



I didn’t know that this stuff existed until Kate showed it to me. It’s a solid bar of soap made specifically for brushes! A lot of them, like the ones from London Brush Company and Clean Apothecary, use goat’s milk as a moisturizing ingredient. This is a great way to clean your brushes if you’re looking to avoid chemicals.

The cleaning process

  1. Get the soap a little wet, then gently wipe the brush on top of it in a circle.
  2. Rinse your brush. You’ll need to rinse the soap as well, because pigment will be coming off on it.
  3. Dry your brushes like you would after using a liquid shampoo.


  • How often should you be cleaning your brushes? “Every couple of days, or once a week,” Kate said. If you get breakouts a lot, the more the better!
  • After you clean your brushes, you can use an eyebrow comb to go through them and, as Kate said, “get the chunkies out.”
  • If you’re looking for a good brush starter kit, Kate recommends sets from Alcone at Home, or brushes from Smashbox.

See more of Kate’s work on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photos: Mel Kassel, Groupon

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Why not use those newly clean brushes to create a fun fall look? (We hear matte makeup is in right now.)

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Update Your Makeup for FallAn Au Naturel Matte Makeup Look

Favin the Maven
BY: Favin the Maven Favin the Maven